My dead husband was alive and living with his new wife

Linda suffered the ultimate betrayal.
Pasco County Sheriff’s Office

Linda Iseler and her husband Richard Hoagland had been married for 11 years with two sons, Matthew, nine, and Doug, six.

They had a comfortable, happy life until February 10, 1993, when Linda arrived home from work to find little Doug home alone and Richard missing. He’d taken no clothes or belongings and his passport was still in the house.

Police found Richard’s car at an airport but none of the airlines had a record of him taking a flight. 

family photo
Richard, Linda, Matthew and Doug (Credit: Pasco County Sheriff’s Office)

The mystery deepened when Linda discovered Richard had forged her signature on loans and credit cards, leaving her a large debt.

Linda lost the house, the car and declared bankruptcy. ‘He devastated us. He left us with nothing,’ Linda says. Nothing but questions.

Did he owe someone money? Did he meet with foul play? Take his own life?

After 10 years, Richard was legally declared dead and Linda went on to remarry and rebuild her life.

Then in 2016 – 23 years since she’d seen her husband – Linda received a call from detective Anthony Cardillo.

‘He asked if I knew who Richard Hoagland was,’ Linda recalled. ‘I said, “Yes, that’s my ex-husband”. He said, “We have him in custody”.’

Richard had run away to Florida and adopted the identity of a dead fisherman, Terry Symansky, after stealing his death certificate. 

Terry Symansky
Terry Symansky (Credit: Pasco County Sheriff’s Office)

‘Using that death certificate he applied for a birth certificate,’ Detective Cardillo explains. ‘He used that birth certificate to get a driver’s licence.’

Under his assumed identity, Richard married a woman named Mary, bought a house and had another son.

It wasn’t until the real Terry Symansky’s nephew started researching his family history that he discovered his uncle had apparently married four years after they’d buried him.

Richard, then 63, was convicted of identity theft and jailed for two years. However, he couldn’t be charged with forging Linda’s signature all those years before.

The hurt he caused is still fresh in Linda’s mind and she struggles to understand his actions, asking, ‘How do you walk away from your own children?’

Read more in this week’s issue of that’s life!, on sale now.

When Rhonda Stapley accepted a lift from a good-looking stranger, she had no idea of the horror that would unfold.  She’d hopped in the car with Ted Bundy – one of the world’s worst serial killers! Listen to amazing, first-hand survival stories from people who have faced the unimaginable and survived, on new podcast How I Survived.

Related stories